I could never have imagined, when our family was transplanted from suburban southern California to the Eastern Panhandle of WV in 2001, that in just over 10 years we would be launching our very own Grade A Goat Dairy and Creamery. Having never farmed, I dreamed of having a few chickens and perhaps a goat for our family milk. Little did I know that “you can’t have just one goat”. My dear friend and Goat Mentor, Pat Adels, of Munchin’ Hill Farm supplied our first Alpine doelings and has continued to encourage and freely share her knowledge and passion for these lovely animals.
After we began our ventures in the barnyard, I soon discovered my psychologist husband, Toby, dreamed of being a real farmer and the goats provided just the right catalyst to begin haying. Thanks to our farming mentor Emmert Moler we slowly gathered the equipment – mostly 60’s era tractors and haybines and harvested our first crop of alfalfa in 2007.
When my oldest daughter, Megan, began experimenting with the surplus milk we were getting, we purchased Ricki Carrol’s book on Home cheese making. That led to a Christmas gift of a 3 day cheese making workshop with Jim Wallace in Massachusetts and two new “formaggiaios” or “cheese makers” were born. When the herd of 2 goats grew to 12 and Toby began raising his eyebrows when we ordered 7 fifty pound bags of grain a week I knew if we were to continue, this passion had to find a way to pay for itself. We desired to produce something of value that would serve our local community. We embraced the concept of “sustainable farming” and “Local Markets” as a way for a community to survive and thrive in these changing economic times, leading us to launch Shepherd’s Whey Creamery.
The journey to Grade A Certification has not been easy with all the rules and regulations concerning the processing of milk, but everyone has been great. We’ve had a lot of help from friends and neighbors and our new facility is beautiful! (Thanks Bob – our project manager!) We are praising God for His provision and for this magnificent adventure He has for us. This truly is a family project – Emi is our star milker, Megan our cheese “Chemist” and goatherd, Matt taking on some major and minor building projects now that he has moved back home to work as a civil engineer here in Martinsburg. Suzanne the chief cheese maker and creamery manager, and Toby running the farm that provides the high quality hay our goats need to produce the rich goat milk that is the foundation of our cheese. Thanks to our ties to the homeschool community, our “staff” is composed mostly of homeschoolers and homeschool graduates who help out a few hours a week. We are looking forward to bringing on a cheese apprentice for the coming season and hope that will help ease Suzanne’s schedule just a bit.